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Sheriff's Office veteran prepares for new role as Somerset supervisor

Daniel M. Engert believes that governing at the town level, more than at any higher level, "is a government of the people, by the people and for the people."

Starting next week, he'll get to see how true that is.

Engert, 41, a 20-year-veteran of the Sheriff's Office, is about to embark on his first term as town supervisor. He decided to run during his first four-year term on the Town Board.

He effectively won the supervisor race in the September Republican primary, when he prevailed over incumbent Richard J. Meyers, who had no minor party lines in the election.

Engert was backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in November in his bid for the two-year post.

As he prepares to lead the government he has served, he said his focus will continue to be on the people who put their trust in him.

"These are the people we see at school, in the grocery store, at the gas station, and I think that's a very important aspect of governance," he said. "You have to take into consideration what your neighbor is going through. You need to hear the issues they bring forward."

One of the issues he will face is the fallout from the loss of Verizon Communications' proposed $4.5 billion data center once considered for a Somerset site. The Town Board earmarked $200,000 in the 2012 budget for "economic development." This budget line is a first for the town.

"We went through significant court proceedings with the Verizon project, and we prevailed, but if we can better position ourselves for future developments, that's what we need to take a look at," he said.

"I'll direct the re-evaluation of the town's master plan to address any shortcomings in long-range plans regarding economic development," Engert said. "We'll be evaluating land use, and there could be engineering costs and consultant fees. We need to enlarge the business footprint in this town, to bring in tax revenue in order to support the services we provide and keep our property taxes low."

Engert said that while he hopes AES Somerset thrives, as its Lake Road power plant is the county's largest property taxpayer, "it's wise for us to plan for every potential outcome.

"On the one hand, I can't overemphasize AES' impact on our community, but we also have to keep plodding forward, too, and we have to position ourselves if something were to happen to them," he said.

Engert points to his involvement on the Town Board's behalf on negotiation teams, along with the Barker School District and Niagara County, helping foster better relations with AES.

He also said his 20 years with the Sheriff's Office -- currently serving as administrative captain -- have given him the ability to "administrate, organize and delegate," skills he feels are necessary to succeed in his new town post.

"The focus of my administration will be to be as close to the people as possible," Engert said. "I have a Facebook page, for example, and residents regularly use it. I also use email, and that's been highly successful. I like to get out in my vehicle and drive around and see people. I did a lot of door-to-door campaigning, and I enjoy that. It gives you a good sense of what's important to residents and what's not."

email: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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Somerset:

New Supervisor: Daniel M. Engert

Party: Republican

Age: 41

School: Graduate of Barker High School and Niagara County Community College

Family: He and wife, Marie, are parents of: Rachel, 19; Kelsey, 13; Daniel, 12; and Jacie, 3.

Career: 20-year veteran of Niagara County Sheriff's Department, currently serves as administrative captain.

Supervisor job: Two-year term, part-time, salary is $16,938 and no additional stipend to serve as budget officer

Town Population: 2,800